Tag: South Bend Tribune

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Draft snub fueling Williams’ drive to the NFL


In a story nobody thought he’d be writing, Ian Williams reflected on getting passed up in last weekend’s NFL Draft.

Williams, who some had pegged as a second rounder early in the year, expected to go somewhere between the third and fifth round of the draft. Instead, he’s weighing his options back in South Bend, as NFL rookie free agency is closed because of the lockout.

One emotion that’s been weighing on Williams? The embarrassment of having family and friends gathered to celebrate his selection, a party that never happened:

From Williams, in yesterday’s South Bend Tribune:

I spent last weekend at home in the Orlando area, waiting for my name to be called in the NFL Draft, which didn’t happen.

It was tough. It was more embarrassing than anything. When people ask or when people Google my name or something like that, you’ll see projections of third to fifth round.

Late in the draft, teams did call, but not for the reasons I hoped they would. It was kind of like false hope. You’re sitting around for hours waiting for the phone call…

I happened to have a few family and friends who were at my house with me Friday and Saturday. And again not seeing my name called, it was very embarrassing.

After the draft ended, I didn’t even want to talk to anybody. I snuck out the window, got in my car and just drove off for a little bit, because I needed to clear my head.

The hard part is I’ve tried to do everything right for the past eight years: Graduate from high school, not have any troubles in high school, graduate from college, not have any off-the-field issues, play all four years, go to the combine, go to the Senior Bowl, do good at both, have a good Pro Day. I tried to do everything right.

Why it’s embarrassing is because I look beyond myself. I talk to a lot of kids, including a kid who’s a sophomore or junior at one of the high schools back home.

He was like, ‘Did you get drafted?’ And I told him that I didn’t. And he didn’t text me back for a while, and it kind of made me feel bad. That’s the embarrassing part — I was supposed to be this example for this kid and I’ve done everything right and I still don’t get my name called. It really hit home.

There’s no doubt that Williams getting injured halfway through the season was a huge blow to his draft prospects, even though he did rebound to play in the Sun Bowl and the Senior Bowl. You could also argue his development at Notre Dame — playing as a true freshman, bouncing between both 4-3 and 3-4 fronts, and being really the only true nose tackle on the roster — hurt him just as badly.

But for every Ryan Simms, a top-ten pick that’s now resurfacing in the UFL Draft, there’s a John Randle, who went undrafted out of tiny Texas A&I on his way to the Hall of Fame. And while Williams’ virtues still didn’t get him noticed by NFL teams (it’s always sad when a guy that does it right — no arrests, graduating in four years, a good person), those virtues are the ones that will help him stick on an NFL roster.

The draft process with Williams, which has been wonderfully chronicled by the South Bend Tribune, has been illuminating — with Williams reflecting on Michael Floyd, the future of the Irish, and just about everything else. No doubt, these articles likely fueled some of the embarrassment, each one of these diary entries assuming that he’d be selected at least somewhere.

If there’s a silver lining in the process, Williams gets an additional few weeks to merely let football sit off to the side for a while, when he’ll reap the fruits of his labors at Notre Dame, with graduation slated for later this month.

Williams talks Blue-Gold, NFL Draft

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What would we do without Ian Williams? As much as I’m ready to banish the idea of Todd McShay and Mel Kiper from my head, the upcoming NFL Draft means more weekly musings from Williams as he prepares for the NFL Draft at the South Bend Tribune.

Since you guys should just go over there and read about it I won’t post the whole thing, but here are a few snippets that I found interesting.

Williams on the Blue-Gold game:

“The weather was crappy as usual, but besides that the team looked pretty good.”

(Having stood about 10 feet away from Williams on the sideline I can definitely agree with both statements.)

Probably of more interest to Irish fans were Williams’ thoughts on touted freshman Aaron Lynch, and quarterbacks Andrew Hendrix and Everett Golson.

I like how Aaron Lynch plays. He makes a lot of plays but he may not be in exactly that right gap that Coach Diaco or Coach Elston may want him in.

Just for him to be able to go out and make tackles and be able to run around and have fun is half of it. I think this summer he’ll work hard on memorizing his plays and getting stronger.

On offense, quarterback Andrew Hendrix has gotten much better than where he was last fall, running the scout team. In the spring game, he looked really comfortable. When he was back there against us for scout team in the fall, you could tell he was a freshman, so he made a few mistakes.

But you could see at times he had glimpses of great throws, and he’d break out of the pocket and make a great run. So he has all the ability. He needs to put it all together, which he will soon.

Freshman quarterback Everett Golson brings that elusiveness. You could probably do a package with him or put him out at receiver. I don’t know what Coach Kelly has in store for Everett, but it’s hard to keep athletes like Everett off the field.

Williams appraisal of Lynch is probably one of the best you’ll find, considering he knows the schematics being taught to the talented freshman by Diaco and Elston, but he’s also able to acknowledge the potential Lynch has without messing with the player-coach dynamic.

It’ll be up to Lynch to work this summer with his teammates to get mentally prepared for a season where he’ll have the opportunity to contribute immediately. One thing that’ll be a great advantage for Lynch is having two veteran defensive ends in front of him. It might be tougher for Lynch to take snaps if Ethan Johnson and Kapron Lewis-Moore need to come off the field for it to happen, but he’ll have two tutors that have played a ton of football in front of him and teaching him in the months where it’s up to the veteran leaders to organize and run football activities.

Ian Williams talks draft, Rudy, Te’o and Floyd

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In his running diary at the South Bend Tribune, Notre Dame nose guard Ian Williams had a great post about the NFL lockout, the upcoming draft, and former teammates Kyle Rudolph, Manti Te’o, and Michael Floyd.

As Williams returns to campus to finish his classes before May graduation, he talks about balancing his preparations for Notre Dame’s April 7 pro day while training in Chicago with former teammates Kerry Neal, Brian Smith and Robert Hughes, all guys that have legitimate shots at catching on with an NFL team — if they ever figure out their labor impasse.

Williams also gave us some minor scoop that Kyle Rudolph signed an endorsement deal with Adidas, which helps explains his inclusion in the latest Adidas “All In” commercial. (Don’t blink, you might miss him.)

It’s a pretty cool commercial and Notre Dame’s inclusion with Derek Rose, Katy Perry, and Lionel Messi certainly means something I’m not qualified to figure out. But if there’s one thing Irish fans might like hearing is Williams’ take on Irish star Michael Floyd, who decided to stay in school for his senior year, and rising junior Manti Te’o, who also will have a decision to make after next season.

From Williams:

The lockout won’t stop endorsement deals. My former teammate, Kyle Rudolph, signed with adidas. Me, I haven’t gotten any calls. Rudy is an offensive player. A lot of those brands — adidas, Nike — they like the offensive guys, but I’m happy for Rudy to get something like that.

You really never know where you’re going to go in the draft. You hear things and they have projections, but when you’re a player in college, you just have to go out there and play as hard as you can.

You can’t focus on something like, “If I do good here, if I get a sack here, I’ll go in the second round, third round.” That’s kind of being a selfish player.

If you go out and play hard every Saturday and do what you can, at the end of the day, the coaches and the scouts will see that.

The projections, ESPN and all that, really don’t mean anything. The coaches and GMs and the scouts who are in the draft war room at the time have the final decision of where you may go.

Now sometimes you have teammates you know will be high draft choices eventually. Michael Floyd, I think personally, would have been a first-rounder this year.

There were questions about his speed, but those people apparently don’t know that Michael Floyd is actually fast. And Manti Te’o is going to be a great linebacker.

I think he’ll stay all four years, but when he does come out, with his talent and the way he’s played the past two years, he’s going to be a first-rounder.

I wasn’t in the position to have to make a decision to come out early, like Michael Floyd did this year and Manti might next year. I think it would have been difficult, but it comes back to the thought that there is no experience that parallels being in college.

I would have talked to Jimmy (Clausen) and Golden (Tate) about it, but I think if I was in that position, I would have come back.

Te’o mentioned when he decided to forgo his Mormon mission that he’d be staying for four seasons in South Bend, but obviously restating that claim after next fall will have Irish fans breathing a lot easier. And while it’s an exercise in futility, if Williams had the recruiting skills needed to bring back Clausen and Tate to the Irish offense this year, it could’ve been a much different story, especially with the defensive renaissance.

Hiben’s journey comes full circle

Joey Hiben

If you’re looking for an unlikely comeback story, Eric Hansen of the South Bend Tribune presents Joey Hiben.

For those that have followed Notre Dame football for some time, the name should ring familiar, but not nearly as memorable as many suspected when the Gatorade State Player of the Year from Minnesota chose Notre Dame over a slew of suitors to join a talented tight end depth chart that included future NFL’ers Athony Fasano and John Carlson.

But Hiben’s dreams of becoming an architect conflicted with his ability to practice with the football team, and after a freshman season that saw Hiben appear in seven games, he made an unlikely choice — Architecture.

“It came down to architecture being more important than football to me,” Hiben told the Observer back in February of 2006. “During the fall I realized that there would be a point in time where I would have to pick architecture or football because at this University, it’s impossible to do both at the same time. I had known that this would have to happen.”

From there, Hiben’s journey got far more complicated. I’ll let Hansen take it from there:

Hiben left ND after his freshman year. And while he enjoyed the anonymity at Minnesota, his missed the competition. He eventually contacted both the track and football teams about competing in the 2007-08 school year.

But shortly after joining in the football team as a defensive end in the fall of 2007, Hiben suffered a broken wrist that would take the better part of two years to heal.

“I only dressed for one football game and never saw any action,” he said. “I thought maybe that was a sign that football wasn’t meant to be for me.”

Hiben’s weight soon swelled to 300 pounds. He felt sluggish and empty.

“I finally decided to get my stuff together,” he said. “I lost 50 pounds and got in the best shape of my life. But that wasn’t the final piece. Notre Dame was.

“When I originally made the decision to pursue architecture, it wasn’t just architecture in general, it was architecture at Notre Dame. I really wanted to come back here and finish what I started.”

The program normally runs five years, but for Hiben it will span seven. When Hiben returned in the fall of 2008, his fourth year in college, ND designated him as a sophomore. He then went to Rome in 2009-10. He’ll graduate in the spring of 2012.

Back on campus in the fall of 2010, Hiben was surprised when coach Brian Kelly’s regime reached out to him. Though he was out of eligibility, Hiben was warmed by the gesture.

“From my understanding, coach Kelly met with the faculty to open lines of communication,” he said. “I think both sides wanted to make sure moving forward that you can do both architecture and football at the same time.”

Hansen wrote a wonderful article and paraphrasing it doesn’t do much justice, but Hiben is back associated with Notre Dame “athletics,” and will be making his Bengal Bouts debut this week as a 6-4, 250-pound heavyweight who received a bye all the way into the semi-finals. Good luck to the poor kid that has to fight Hiben, and more importantly, congratulations to Joey Hiben for persevering through what had to be an incredibly difficult struggle. While he didn’t accomplish as much on the football field as he hoped, he certainly embodied much of what Notre Dame looks for in a student-athlete.

Clausen and Weis both back to school

Clausen Weis

In many ways, Jimmy Clausen and Charlie Weis had similar journeys through Notre Dame. Both came to South Bend talking a big game. Clausen — flashing some high school bling at the College Football Hall of Fame, while Weis buried himself with talk of “decided schematic advantages” and “6-6 isn’t good enough.” For Weis, his tenure at Notre Dame also started with two BCS seasons, fueling the belief that the way he was building his program was the right way, a sentiment that probably cost him his job just three seasons later. For Clausen, the start of his career was a rough one, but he survived a freshman year and built steadily to a statistically dominant junior season, his final season in South Bend before fulfilling his destiny of becoming an NFL quarterback.

That Weis and Clausen both spent 2010 in the NFL isn’t a surprise. That they both open 2011 back in college is the real head-scratcher. For Jimmy, the move is temporary — the impending NFL work stoppage gives him a chance to get the 15 credits needed to graduate with a sociology degree. But for Weis, it was a shocking about-face leaving a Kansas City Chiefs offense that he turned into a playoff team to join Will Muschamp’s Florida coaching staff, a school that counted as one of Weis’ chief rivals, even though they never faced each other on the gridiron. Eric Hansen of the South Bend Tribune caught up with Clausen and a handful of Irish alums now playing in the NFL to discuss both moves back to school.

“Whatever I learn in this class probably won’t come close to what I learned from coach Weis,” Clausen said. “As soon as I got to South Bend, he just really helped me in many different ways, not just in football but off the field, mentally and psychologically, and everything like that.”

Clausen isn’t the only former player that has kind things to say about the former head coach.

“He had so much knowledge of football,” said Denver Broncos fourth-year offensive tackle Ryan Harris, who played his final two collegiate seasons at ND under Weis. “I just gleaned everything I could, and I think all the other players did too. I think that’s why so many of us are in the NFL. He did a good job of putting position coaches together, too. There’s so much thought that goes into everything he does. It’s a contagious thing.”

Another huge supporter? Former Irish quarterback Brady Quinn, who hits on a key evolutionary change that Weis will likely experience on his second tour of duty in major college football.

“I thought he was a great coach when I played for him, and I think he’s even better now,” said Denver Broncos backup quarterback Brady Quinn, who made a Heisman Trophy run under Weis at ND in 2006.

“I feel like he learned a lot in college, evolved as a coach. He realized that a 23-year-old NFL rookie is not the same animal as an 18-, 19-year-old freshman. That might be the biggest thing. I think he’ll be better at developing younger players now.”

The entire article really deserves reading, and also includes great quotes from Seahawks tight end John Carlson and Boston College linebacker Mark Herzlic, not to mentioned a wonderful tidbit about Weis visiting Tyrone Willingham’s 2004 Irish squad when he was still the Patriots’ offensive coordinator and the verbal undressing he gave to the Irish team during winter workouts.

I’ve probably been one of the more outspoken supporters of Charlie Weis, but it’s clear that the way he handled the Irish wasn’t the way to consistently field a winning team. Whether it was the early success Weis had with a veteran roster, he was never able to duplicate that with his own recruits, largely due to the lack of development time that trial-by-fire group in 2007 had.

And while neither Clausen nor Weis delivered what they hoped to in South Bend, the book is far from closed on either of their careers. Clausen is too accurate of a passer to be the quarterback he was during his rookie season and Weis far to innovative offensively to be anything but great for Muschamp’s Gator staff. I guess only time will tell, but Hansen did a great job taking us down recent memory lane…